Check out this beautiful pot of purple hyacinths! I wish you could’ve enjoyed their scent. They were part of my Easter gift for Mom, which I brought with me on this past weekend’s roadtrip to Connecticut to see she and Dad for Easter. There was a bit of traffic to slow me down on my journey, but I was in no rush and these fragrant beauties had me intoxicated for the much of the drive…and so I hardly cared.
I always find a little car time is good for rambling about in one’s head…and when THAT becomes too much of a good thing, I often take the opportunity to enjoy some long-ish Broadway show soundtrack recording or other. Perhaps predictably (though not as much as if it had been Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar), I chose The Secret Garden for this trip.
I didn’t get as early a start as I might have liked, as there was banking and shopping and an oil change to fit in before leaving, plus I wanted to make sure my Gray Pal was set up properly with the Downses, who were to enjoy his company in my absence. Still, even with the late start and the traffic, I’d arrived safely at my destination by late afternoon. While I miss the Adirondacks themselves a little, I most certainly am not pining for the former seven hour drive that was required for a weekend with Mom and Dad. It was great to see them and spend some time getting caught up and checking out all the progress they are making in renovations/sprucing up of the house they moved into last fall, before we headed to Sue and Joe’s across town for a pizza party.
On Saturday, we had hoped to do some yard work and also a bit of exploration into the now-greening gardens that pre-exist on the property. We did manage to get a woodpile re-located for the in-progress vinyl siding project before we were pre-empted by a cold and windy rain that continued through much of the day. We’re good at adapting, though, and so our outdoor day transformed pretty easily to a movie day, which we kicked off with MILK, which had been loaned to me by a friend as I was preparing for the weekend.
What an amazing movie. Yes, I know, I’m terribly late to this party. Many of you have already offered your recommendations and glowing reviews of the film, not the least of “you” being the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Sean Penn is truly deserving of The Best Actor honors for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man elected to public office in the U.S.
I know the story of Harvey, of course – I’ve admired him for at least the second half of my life so far. Knowing how the story ends certainly factored into my hesitancy to see it sooner – it’s not like I’ve needed much encouragement to be randomly weepy these past eight months – and while the movie was a celebration of the courage and devotion and good spirit of one who inspired/inspires so many of us, it was still sort of tough for me to watch in that regard. I wonder what Harvey would think if he could see us now. We have come so very far since his times – I wish he could see that – but sometimes it sounds as if we continue to fight the same old battles with the same old script. Thank goodness we continue, though.
It was appropriate for me to see the movie on Easter weekend, though, and with Mom and Dad. It was, after all, on Good Friday 22nd years ago that I came out and had The Conversation with Mom. My sexuality wasn’t really a surprise to either of us by then, but that was when I found the courage to talk about it, anyway. It seems like so very many years ago…and also just yesterday. Isn’t Time weird like that?
Of course, that was when Easter changed a bit for me, too. It wasn’t long after I opened up about being a gay man that I started to feel uncomfortable with the Catholic Church’s policies about degenerates like myself. No, that’s not entirely true. I’d been feeling that discomfort for way longer than I was able to speak the “gay” word aloud. But whatever; despite having been raised with the traditions of the church, it didn’t take me much time after accepting myself to set that part of my life aside. Anyone can see that religion is meant to provide comfort and joy (or it should be), but mostly its used to try to control people. This just felt like a place where I would never fit in.
This is not to say I don’t believe in Jesus; I most certainly do. But being a fan of great stories, I also believe in Aphrodite, Scarlett O’Hara, Mary Lennox, The White Rabbit, Jean Valjean, George Bailey and Maria Von Trapp (Okay, yes. I know Maria was an actual person, but in my parallel universe, she is/was also Julie Andrews). I’m pretty gullible: you can get me to believe all kinds of things. But don’t feel bad for me or anything, most of the time I really do believe in myself…and in all the rest of you, too! Well, most of you, anyway. ; )
I do still attend services now and then, but the rituals don’t hold quite the same meaning for me as they once did, long ago. Now they are more a means of fellowship or an opportunity for quiet reflection and prayer, or in the best cases – usually at Christmas – services can provide a chance to lift my voice in familiar song.
Mostly, I find my spiritual moments in the Garden – in Nature – where I am surrounded with the business of Life, of watching it, encouraging it, revelling in its sweet unpredictable magic. When I see the patterns in Life, the way things all sort of fit together in this amazing design, it’s a little miraculous, wondrous, even. Those times in the garden make me feel the way I imagine going to church always should have felt to me, but never really did.
Easter is The Big Day for the Church, of course, and I did attend mass with Mom and Dad on Sunday morning. I was interested to see what their new church was like, as I’ve heard lots about it, and as I mentioned above, there are still positive reasons for me to attend.
Their new church is dedicated to Saint Francis, who – as the patron saint of animals (and also a big fan of Peace) – has always held a special place in my heart. I was sort of touched by this statue in the courtyard garden behind the church. I’ve often seen Saint Francis portrayed with animals, but never in the company of a wolf.
I also spent a lot of time enjoying this particular stained glass window, with its depictions of so many of my favorite bird species (as well as some irises and foxglove!). Don’t worry, I stayed after mass to take the photo. Just because I don’t share all the beliefs of the congregants doesn’t mean I’m inconsiderate enough to disrespect their traditions of worship. Since one of the church’s brick columns occluded some of my view of the traditional activities on the altar, I felt a little less self-conscious about applying my attention to the lovely windows as I let my mind wander through some prayers and meditations on behalf of some friends who’ve been on my mind a lot this spring. And this one was beautiful enough to want to share with all of you.
I’m probably wrong, but doesn’t that one bird look like a dodo?
I also realized anew just how uncomfortable the set-up in a Catholic church can be. I realize the pews are close together so they can maximize attendance, and my bum and I have long ago made our peace with the hard wooden benches. Like the kneeling, I’ve always assumed the discomfort was a sacrifice one made to help focus reflection on Christ’s own suffering on everyone’s behalf. But what bothered my middle-aged feet this time was the near-impossibility of finding a way to stand comfortably flat on one’s feet around the hinges and feet of the kneeler benches.
Ugh. I suppose it’s still whiny to mention since we’re comparing it against actual crucifixion, but what would interrupt one’s reflections and meditations more than the yelp of pain that accompanies a fellow congregant’s foot cramps? I suppose, though, that it just blends in with all the other sounds that echo about; the kneelers banging, the little ones’ discomforts, coughs and sneezes, the occasional snore. Is it just me, or is flatulence almost impossibly funnier in church? At least hearing that in this case meant the music had stopped. : ) Remember the idea of comfort and joy. I’ve begun to suspect that the specs church builders use were/are based on people from years ago, who were generally much smaller in stature.
Where the Holy Days fully redeem themselves in my eyes, however, is the part where we leave church and gather with more of our family to enjoy one another’s company and celebrate Life with much laughter and fellowship and great food and a little wine, and some card-playing (for jellybeans) and more laughs. That’s what the rest of the day was about for us, as we welcomed sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins to Mom and Dad’s place for a wonderful Easter celebration and buffet. I think it’s pretty clear from our photo, but just in case, let me assure you: we had a great time.
All too quickly, the day had fled and with it, the weekend. I’m happy to say that Mom and I did get a chance to give the new gardens a proper prowl in the cold sunshine before I left on Monday morning. There’s plenty of exciting things growing there, many of which we were able to identify from their early season leaves, not the least of which are a great many violets!
No matter how you chose to celebrate the weekend – in church or around the table or in the garden or at a beach or on a mountainside, with family, or with a family of friends, or both – I hope that you had as wonderful a time as we did.
Happy Easter, Blessed Passover, and/or Joyous Spring to each of you!